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How Extensively Will Curvilinear ILT Be Used For EUV Photomasks?




Curvilinear shapes on photomasks lead to improved process windows, as the first installment of this blog series discussed. Our blog series continues with a video panel discussion of the benefits that curvilinear shapes have for EUV photomasks (masks) and whether curvilinear shapes will be used beyond today’s usage for hotspots.

Our panellists approached the question of curvilinear ILT for EUV from both a technical standpoint as well as the economic angle of extending the initial investment in EUV tools. In this five-minute video excerpt from the virtual eBeam Initiative panel, Danping Peng of TSMC and Ezequiel Russell of Micron Technology explain why they think some curvilinear shapes will be used on EUV masks (figure 1).

Fig. 1: Discussion on the reasons why EUV masks will contain some curvilinear shapes during the 2021 eBeam Initiative panel at SPIE Advanced Lithography.

The panel went on to discuss whether curvilinear ILT would be used beyond “hotspots” for an entire critical layer. Danping Peng discussed the ILT runtime challenge but pointed to GPUs as a solution to the barrier while Ezequiel Russell predicted that full-chip curvilinear ILT usage for critical layers will increase because more multi-beam mask writers will be in use. To hear more of their insights on how extensively curvilinear ILT will be used and when, you can watch this four-minute video excerpt from the panel discussion.

Over the next few months in this blog, we will continue to bring you the viewpoints from experts at TSMC, NuFlare Technology, Micron Technology, and D2S as we explore questions about the challenges of curvilinear shapes on photomasks and how the industry is working on solutions such as curvilinear data formats. Our final blog will look at the potential to change not only manufacturing but also the design of semiconductor chips using curvilinear shapes. If you can’t wait, you can watch the full 90-minute panel event here.

Jan Willis

Jan Willis

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Jan Willis is an independent consultant at Calibra. She has held a variety of high-level positions at companies such as Cadence, Synopsys and Hewlett-Packard. She holds a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.

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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test




Chipmakers and OEMs
IBM has unveiled what the company says is the world’s first 2nm chip. The device is based on a next-generation transistor architecture called a nanosheet FET. The nanosheet FET is an evolutionary step from finFETs, which is today’s state-of-the-art transistor technology.

Targeted for 2024, IBM’s 2nm chip features a novel multi-Vt scheme, a 12nm gate length, and a new inner spacer. The company used extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to pattern the sheets.

The 2nm chip can fit up to 50 billion transistors on a device. It is projected to achieve 45% higher performance, or 75% lower energy use, as compared to today’s most advanced 7nm chips. IBM won’t manufacture the chip. Instead, the company will outsource the production to a foundry. As reported, IBM several years ago sold its semiconductor unit to GlobalFoundries. IBM still design its own chips and still conducts semiconductor R&D at the Albany Nanotech Complex in Albany, N.Y.


Intel will invest $3.5 billion to equip its New Mexico operations for use in manufacturing its advanced semiconductor packaging technologies. This includes Foveros, Intel’s 3D packaging technology. The investment is expected to create at least 700 high-tech jobs and 1,000 construction jobs and support an additional 3,500 jobs in the state. Construction is expected to start in late 2021.

Taiwan foundry vendor Vanguard International Semiconductor (VIS) has expanded its 200mm wafer capacity. VIS announced plans to acquire the buildings and facilities of AU Optronics’ L3B fab located in Hsinchu Science Park, Taiwan. “Both parties have signed the contract on April 28, according to which the transaction amounts to $905 million NTD and the transfer of ownership is set to be completed on January 1, 2022,” according to a spokesperson from VIS. “Fab L3B is going to be the fifth fab for VIS worldwide. The capacity of this building is expected to be 40,000 8-inch wafers per month and prepared for customers’ mid-term and long-term demand.”

PsiQuantum, a startup that is developing a quantum computer, has signed a foundry deal with GlobalFoundries. Under the terms, GF is manufacturing the silicon photonic and electronic chips that form the foundation of the Q1 system, the first system milestone in PsiQuantum’s roadmap to deliver a commercially viable quantum computer.

Infineon has concluded a supply contract with Japanese wafer manufacturer Showa Denko for an extensive range of silicon carbide material (SiC), including epitaxy. The German semiconductor manufacturer has thus secured more base material for the growing demand for SiC-based products. SiC devices are used in the field of photovoltaic, industrial power supply, and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Yageo and Hon Hai Technology Group, also known as Foxconn, have signed a joint venture agreement to form XSemi. The goal of this joint venture is to extend the businesses into the semiconductor industry, including product development and sales. The goal is to make small-scale chips.

Qorvo has acquired NextInput, a developer of force-sensing solutions for human-machine interfaces. NextInput has shipped millions of MEMS-based sensors to manufacturers of smartphones, wearables, automobiles and other applications. The acquisition of NextInput expands Qorvo’s technology portfolio and enables Qorvo to accelerate the deployment of force-sensing solutions utilizing MEMS-based sensors.

General Motors has reported its first-quarter results. The company is confident in its full-year 2021 guidance outlined earlier this year as it works to manage through a semiconductor shortage. Meanwhile, VW also posted mixed results in the quarter and is still wresting with chip shortages.

Not long ago, Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler merged. The combined company is called Stellantis, which just posted its results. “In our first quarter since the merger, Stellantis posted strong Q1 2021 revenues with the diverse brand portfolio driving increased volumes, positive pricing and improved product mix, despite the headwinds from the global semiconductor crisis,” said Richard Palmer, Stellantis’ CFO.

Fab tool and analytics
DNP has developed a 5nm mask-writing process for leading-edge photomask customers. This is namely for customers manufacturing chips using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. DNP has developed a 5nm process using IMS’ multi-beam mask writer. DNP has production capability for advanced masks, including EUV masks for 5nm logic.

Bruker has announced its financial results for its first quarter ended March 31. Bruker’s revenues for the first quarter of 2021 were $554.7 million, an increase of 30.8% compared to $424.0 million in the first quarter of 2020. “Bruker had an excellent start to 2021, with strong year-over-year revenue growth and remarkable operating performance improvements. During the quarter, we experienced strong revenue growth for our ‘Project Accelerate’ products and solutions, particularly for proteomics and biopharma solutions, as well as for our core scientific instruments from strengthening academic, applied, industrial and semiconductor markets,” said Frank Laukien, president and CEO of Bruker. “With robust Scientific Instruments order trends in the first quarter, we are raising our full year 2021 revenue growth, operating margin and earnings outlook.”

PDF Solutions has reported its financial results for its first quarter ended March 31. Total revenues for the first quarter of 2021 were $24.2 million, compared to $22.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2020 and $21.2 million for the first quarter of 2020. Analytics revenue for the first quarter of 2021 was $19.4 million, compared to $14.5 million for the fourth quarter of 2020 and $13.3 million for the first quarter of 2020.

Lam Research has committed $1 million to battle against COVID-19 in India. Meanwhile, the KLA Foundation is expanding its COVID-19 relief efforts in India with a donation of $550,000 to help combat the second wave of coronavirus infections currently taxing the country’s healthcare system amid a national vaccine shortage.

Packaging and test
Draper has been selected for two U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) contracts, totaling $14 million, to enhance the U.S.’s ability for volume production of advanced packaging solutions for chips embedded within defense systems. i3 Microsystems will be the major subcontractor for production.

Integra Technologies, a provider of semiconductor packaging, assembly, test, characterization and related services, has announced the addition of an advanced test system from Advantest at its Wichita facility. The company added Advantest’s V93000 SmartScale tester to the mix.

Government policy
A group of Canadian business leaders, chip manufacturers, and investors have announced Canada’s new Semiconductor Council. With a mandate to build and lead Canada’s national semiconductor strategy and action plan, the coalition will work towards advancing Canadian competitiveness, strengthening trade partnerships and bolstering its supply chain resilience.

Market research
Here’s the latest from IC Insights: “Driven by a resurgent memory market and relatively flat sales results from Intel, IC Insights believes that Samsung will again replace Intel as the leading semiconductor producer beginning in 2Q21. Moreover, Intel is guiding its full-year 2021 sales to be down 1% as compared with 2020. With the DRAM market on the rise and the NAND flash market forecast to gain momentum in the second half of the year, it appears likely that Samsung will once again position itself at the #1 semiconductor supplier for the full year as well.”

Worldwide silicon wafer area shipments increased 4% to 3,337 million square inches in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the SEMI Silicon Manufacturers Group (SMG). This tops the previous historical high set in the third quarter of 2018, according to the group. First-quarter 2021 silicon wafer shipments saw 14% growth from the 2,920 million square inches logged during the same quarter last year, they added.

IDC forecasts that the semiconductor market will reach $522 billion in 2021, a 12.5% year-over-year growth rate. “IDC anticipates continued robust growth in consumer, computing, 5G, and automotive semiconductors,” according to the firm. “Supply constraints will continue through 2021. While shortages initially occurred in automotive semiconductors, the impact is being felt across the board in semiconductors manufactured at older technology nodes.”

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Week In Review: Design, Low Power




Synopsys closes Ethernet IP acquisition; Infineon adds wide-bandgap switches; eFPGA for government research; financial results.


Synopsys completed its acquisition of MorethanIP, a provider of Ethernet Digital Controller IP supporting data rates from 10G to 800G. The acquisition adds MAC (Medium Access Controller) and PCS (Physical Coding Sublayer) for 200G/400G and 800G Ethernet to Synopsys’ portfolio. The company also provides Time-Sensitive Networking, Fibre Channel, and Ethernet Switching IP for integration into ASICs and FPGAs. MorethanIP was founded in 2000 and based in Karlsfeld, Germany. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Infineon added a new family of integrated power stage products based on gallium nitride, a wide-bandgap material. The IPS switches are aimed at low and medium power devices, such as chargers, adapters, and switched-mode power supplies.

Siemens Digital Industries Software rolled out a new version of its computational fluid dynamics software, which allows design engineers to utilize CFD simulation earlier in the design process. Heat has been one of the big challenges at advanced nodes and in advanced packages, and knowing how to dissipate that heat early in the design process is critical.

Cadence won recognition from Samsung for a 3nm test tapeout based on gate-all-around transistors. Samsung is the first out the door with nanosheet transistors. TSMC is expected to follow sometime in the next couple years.

The US Air Force Research Laboratory, Sensors Directorate (AFRL/RY) inked an agreement with Flex Logix that allows use of EFLX eFPGA IP in GlobalFoundries’ 12nm process in any US Government program and activity. “The US Government is the third largest user of FPGAs. The license with Flex Logix opens up a wealth of opportunities for increased semiconductor trust and assurance through the manufacturing chain and provides upgradability to ASICs for lifelong programs,” said Jacqueline S. Janning-Lask, former Director of the Sensors Directorate.

Nanya Technology adopted Synopsys’ Custom Design Platform to aid the design of advanced memories for applications including mobile, automotive, consumer and industrial. Nanya said it replaced its existing memory design flow with the Synopsys solution to streamline their design process and improve overall productivity.

Infineon inked a deal with Japan’s Showa Denko K.K. for silicon carbide material and epitaxy. SiC is used for power supplies, charging infrastructure for automotive applications, and solar applications.

Ansys reported first quarter 2021 financial results with revenue of $363.2 million, up 19% from the first quarter last year. Net income was $72.4 million, up from $46.0 million in the same period in 2020. “We are optimistic about the positive indicators we saw in Q1 and the strength of our current pipeline,” said Ansys CFO Nicole Anasenes. “We are raising our full year 2021 guidance across all guidance metrics: ACV, revenue, EPS and operating cash flow.”

Rambus reported first quarter 2021 financial results with revenue of $70.4 million, up $65.8 million last year. Revenue and earnings were at the high end of expectations, noted Rambus CEO Luc Seraphin. “Ongoing share gains for memory interface chips and strong demand in Cloud and other target markets are driving topline growth for the company.”

Xilinx reported fourth fiscal quarter and full fiscal year 2021 financial results. For the quarter, revenue was $851 million, up 13% compared to the fourth fiscal quarter of last year. Net income was $188 million, compared with $162 million in the previous period. For the year, revenue was $3.15 billion, roughly flat from the previous year. “Record Q4 revenues were driven by strength in Wireless and Data Center markets, as well as record quarters for our Industrial and Automotive end markets, which resulted in 6% sequential and 13% year-over-year growth,” said Brice Hill, Xilinx’s CFO. “Advanced Products also grew 6% sequentially and represented 73% of total revenue. Top line performance drove fourth quarter free cash flows of $227 million, or 27% of revenue, reflecting our efficient financial model.”

Infineon reported revenue of €2.7 billion for its second fiscal quarter, ended March 31, up from €1.99 billion in the same period in 2020. Net income increased to €203 million, up from €178 million in 2020. While demand is strong, the company said revenue growth will continue to be limited by supply constraints this quarter. Nonetheless, the company posted an upbeat outlook for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Intel said it would invest $600 million to expand its R&D in Israel, including $400 million in its Mobileye research for self-driving cars and another $200 million in its current R&D center in Haifa.

IBM unveiled the first 2nm chip, which it claims will have a four-day battery life and 45% higher performance than 7nm chips. IBM doesn’t actually manufacture advanced chips anymore, so it remains to be seen who will utilize this technology.

Find a new conference or learning opportunity at our events page, or check out an upcoming webinar.

The 29th IEEE International Symposium On Field-Programmable Custom Computing Machines will take place on May 9-12. The 2021 ESD Alliance CEO Outlook will take place May 18. The 2021 Embedded Vision Summit will be held May 25-28.

Jesse Allen

Jesse Allen

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Jesse Allen is the Knowledge Center administrator and a senior editor at Semiconductor Engineering.

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Week In Review: Auto, Security, Pervasive Computing




Pervasive computing — IoT, edge, cloud, data center, and back
Foxconn (also known as Hon Hai Technology Group) is forming a joint venture (JV) with Yageo Group, a component production and process management company for EVs and other high-end electronics, to focus on the development of semiconductors under $2 USD, which they call “small ICs.” Through the JV, a new company called XSemi will develop semiconductors to provide a stable supply to both companies and other customers. According to a press release. “Hon Hai has built capabilities within semiconductor equipment, design services, IC design in 5G, AI, CIS (CMOS Image Sensors), and display driver, foundry fabs, and advanced packaging.” Yageo brings component production and sales. “Yageo aims to create a one-stop shop for its customers,” said Yageo chairman Pierre Chen in the press release. “That and through this joint venture, we will further provide the services and products that meet customers’ need for supply chain optimization.” Yageo will add to its passive components into semiconductors. The JV will be based in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

In April, Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer known for assembly of Apple products, announced it was scaling back a $10 billion project in the U.S. state of Wisconsin to $672 million that was initiated in 2017 that was supposed to provide 13,000 jobs. Now that number has been pared down to 1,454.

Synopsys completed its acquisition of MorethanIP, an IP provider based in Germany that specializes in Ethernet Digital Controller IP, time-sensitive networking (TSN), fibre channel IP, industrial networking, and high precision time-stamping for eCPRI and 5G wireless. The Ethernet IP, which supports data rates from 10G to 800G, will augment Synopsys’ DesignWare Ethernet Controller IP portfolio. The addition of the MAC and PCS for 200G/400G and 800G Ethernet in DesignWare provides a low-latency, high-performance Ethernet IP offering for networking, AI, and cloud computing SoCs.

A research team from Fraunhofer IIS and Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) developed neuromorphic hardware that can detect early signs of atrial fibrillation and help reducing the risk of stroke. The team devised low-power algorithms for a wearable ECG. the chip circuit, and the ReRAM memory. Part of the wearable’s chip sleeps when not in use to save power.

PsiQuantum and Globalfoundries will build a full-scale commercial 1 million-plus qubit quantum computer. The two companies are now manufacturing the silicon photonic and electronic chips for the Q1 system.

RF chip designer Qorvo has acquired NextInput, a Mountain View, California-based company that makes field of force-sensing solutions for human-machine interface (HMI). NextInput’s MEMS-based sensors are in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and other applications.

Automotive & transportation
The levels of automated driving are now six, not five. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) announced that the new standard is six levels of autonomous driving:

  • Level 0: No Driving Automation
  • Level 1: Driver Assistance
  • Level 2: Partial Driving Automation
  • Level 3: Conditional Driving Automation
  • Level 4: High Driving Automation
  • Level 5: Full Driving Automation

The levels in Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles J3016_202104 have been widely adopted by the industry to describe levels of autonomy in moving vehicles. Also in the update, SAE clarified the differences between SAE Level 3 and SAE Level 4, including the role of the fallback-ready user, the possibility of some automated fallback at SAE Level 3, and the possibility of some alerts to in-vehicle users at SAE Level 4. Levels 1 and 2 are now “Driver Support Systems” while SAE Levels 3-5 are “Automated Driving Systems.”

The International Alliance for Mobility Testing and Standardization (IAMTS) is starting the process to develop best practices for automotive cybersecurity testing and validation, specifically for autonomous vehicles. Participation will come from cross-regional (U.S., Europe, Asia) and cross-stakeholder (industry, certification & testing, proving grounds). Members from Cybellum, TÜV SÜD, CATARC, IEEE, and Tallinn University of Technology are participating. “A common problem in security requirements is that they are too abstract and, thereby, underspecified. In the automotive domain, many only prescribe processes and methods but do not show how security can be achieved in a concrete system,” stated Eddie Lazebnik, lead for the IAMTS working group and head of strategy at Cybellum, in a press statement. “In the case of automotive cybersecurity testing, for anyone interested in UNECE WP29 readiness, contributing to the IAMTS efforts to create additional cohesion within the industry is paramount for success.” The IAMTS efforts should fit in with regulatory work around the globe to define cybersecurity requirements for AVs and other mobility systems. Other efforts include Europe’s UNECE Regulation No. 155 Cyber security and cyber security management system and Regulation No. 156 Software update and software update management system; the United States’ NHTSA, which is gathering public comments on its updated draft cybersecurity best practices; and other ongoing work in regulatory and standardization bodies.

Ford and BMW are investing in solid-state batteries to increase range, while reducing cost, according to an AP story. The companies are putting a $130 million funding round in Solid Power, a company working on sulfide-solid-state batteries. Solid state uses solid-ion conducting, instead of the liquid electrolyte. Solid Power is based in Denver, Colorado.

The MIPI Alliance has completed its MIPI Automotive SerDes Solutions (MASS) set of interface standards for automotive displays. The specifications are built on upon MIPI A-PHY SerDes interface, MIPI Display Serial Interface 2 (MIPI DSI-2), and VESA Embedded DisplayPort and DisplayPort (VESA eDP/DP).

Stellantis — the company formed out of the merged Peugeot S.A. (PSA) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) — had a strong 1st quarter despite semiconductor shortages. The company had net revenues of €34.3 billion ($41.4 billion USD). Consolidated shipments of 1,477 thousand units, or 1,567 thousand units. “In our first quarter since the Merger, Stellantis posted strong Q1 2021 revenues with the diverse brand  portfolio driving increased volumes, positive pricing, and improved product mix, despite the headwinds from the  global semiconductor crisis,”  said Richard Palmer, Stellantis CFO, in a statement. The presentation from the quarterly report press event said the company is “continuously monitoring global semiconductor shortage, resulting in loss of ~11% of planned production, or ~190k units; limited visibility of full year impact, but expected that Q2 2021 will be worse than Q1 2021, with some improvement in H2 2021.”

Infineon announced its SiC-based automotive-qualified power module for EV traction inverters, which can save power over a silicon version. The power module has Infineon’s CoolSiC MOSFET technology, which Infineon says offers higher efficiency in inverters with longer ranges and lower battery costs, for vehicles with 800 V battery systems and larger battery capacity. “The 800 V system of the Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) represents the technological basis for the next generation of electric vehicles with reduced charging time”, said Jin-Hwan Jung, head of the Electrification Development Team at Hyundai Motor Group, in a press release. “By using traction inverters based on Infineon’s CoolSiC power module, we were able to increase the range of the vehicle by more than five percent because of efficiency gains resulting from the lower losses of this SiC solution compared to Si based solution.”

NI is acquiring ADAS simulation company monoDrive to boost its autonomous vehicle development and its reach in ADAS and simulation markets. NI also is embarking on a strategic collaboration with Ansys to work on advanced simulation. “Ansys’ simulation solution enables sensor vendors to simulate the fundamental physics of their radars, LiDARs, and cameras from design through manufacturing,” states an NI press release. “Together, NI and Ansys will help solve the complex challenge of recreating real-world simulation to validate sensors and inject data into software and hardware under test in real-time. This shared focus will provide customers with critical insights into how products will perform in market by bridging the worlds of simulated and physical test with more precise outcomes.”

General Motors reported strong first-quarter results, with revenue of $32.5 billion and net income of income of $3.0 billion (EBIT-adjusted of $4.4 billion). CEO Mary Barra told shareholders in a letter that GM, despite a slower first quarter, is reaffirming its guidance for the full year. “We see results coming in at the higher end of the $10 billion to $11 billion EBIT-adjusted range,” wrote Barra. GM is working on an EV Hummer, a redesign for its Bolt EV and Volt hybrid, building EV brands for Honda, and working on a high-volume battery-electric Silverado that will have an estimated 400 miles of range on a full charge for certain configurations. GM continues to work on battery technology, charging stations, and Super Cruise, a hands-free driver-assistance system. GM’s Cruise has an agreement with Dubai to deploy up to 4,000 self-driving Cruise Origin taxis by 2030.

A university research team has reported an IC hardware vulnerability in the fix for speculative execution, which was a cause of Spectre and the similar Meltdown vulnerability. Intel has issues press statements that points developers to the a programming fix.

Synopsys will showcase its new Intelligent Orchestration security automation system that helps teams select the right security tests and perform them at the right time — at RSA Conference, which starts on May 17.

Falling Chinese rocket debris has been a concern since the launch of the Chinese space station. The debris is expected to hit Earth on May 8th. Rocket debris is essentially uncontrollable and hard to track, but China is not the only culprit who leaves junk in space after a launch that is doomed to return. The United States has its share, and Russia ranks number one.

People, companies
The KLA Foundation pledged to donate $550,000 to help supply treatments for COVID-19 patients in India, and has established an internal fund for employees that has already raised $36,000.

Job, Event and Webinar Boards: Find industry jobs and upcoming conferences and webinars all in one place on Semiconductor Engineering. Knowledge Center: Boost your semiconductor industry knowledge. Videos: See the latest Semiconductor Engineering videos.

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Innovations In High-Frequency Electromagnetic Simulation




High-frequency electromagnetic simulation has evolved from “wow, now I can see how electromagnetic fields behave” to needing to know how various EM fields interact in large, complex systems. During that time, I have been an R&D engineer and I have managed a team implementing various solver technologies. We’ve been presented with plenty of challenges as electronics have continued to proliferate, growing increasingly complex.

To meet the needs of the market, you need accurate answers faster. One significant bottleneck has been the time it takes to get an initial finite element (FEM) mesh for large system designs. Recently, we introduced HFSS Mesh Fusion, which allows a large system to be analyzed by meshing parts of the design independently. This makes the meshing process faster and more robust, allowing it to obtain a mesh when previous methods would fail.

Building upon electromagnetic simulation innovation

Mesh Fusion is the latest in a series of EM simulation innovations. Before my time at Ansys — in fact, before Ansoft was acquired by Ansys — critical features such as physics-based adaptive meshing [1], spurious-free vector basis functions [2], and the transfinite element method [3] were in the first version of HFSS released in 1989. Zoltan Cendes, founder of Ansoft (acquired by Ansys in 2008), was the force behind those important early features. He was at the forefront of defining spurious-free vector basis functions, foundational to high frequency FEM, as described in his paper “New vector finite elements for three-dimensional magnetic field computation.” Prior to this, it was impossible to provide robust and accurate answers for electromagnetic analysis using FEM.

Once that possibility existed, the next challenge was efficiency. For example, in 2007, we adopted hierarchical vector basis functions defined to work well for the iterative solver and enabled the use of different polynomial orders throughout the computational domain, called mixed order basis functions. Mixed order provides a way to model the fields more efficiently by using low order approximations where fields are more constant and higher order in regions of more complex field patterns. The order distribution is determined automatically in conjunction with the physics-based mesh adaption.

Fig. 1: A coax to waveguide microwave transition.

With automatic mesh adaption, you can launch a simulation without dealing with the mesh. HFSS automatically refines the mesh based on physics. The adapted mesh is obtained by first solving the fields on an initial coarse mesh. Error indicators are then computed and used to determine where to refine the mesh as well as to adjust the order of the basis functions. After a refined mesh is obtained, HFSS solves again and inspects the convergence criteria, typically by checking the change in S-parameters between consecutive meshes. This process continues until a final converged mesh is obtained that satisfies the convergence criteria. Adaptive meshing is not easy to get right, but we have fine-tuning it for over 20 years to ensure accuracy.

Another major innovation in EM simulation is the transfinite element method, which was introduced in the first release of HFSS. It provides an accurate way to inject and absorb waveguide and/or transmission line modes into the computational domain via the ports. Other methods have been proposed for modeling ports relying on a perfectly matched layer (PML) backing or a different modal method. The PML backing is less accurate, and it introduces many more unknowns, rendering it less efficient. The alternate modal method is more computationally expensive due to a fully dense matrix block related to the port unknowns akin to an integral equation on the port surface. The transfinite element method is the most accurate and computationally efficient technique where modes are used to represent basis functions on the port, leading to minimal overhead for extracting S-parameters. It was key to a more recent advancement where HFSS solves only for the S-parameters when the fields are not required. In combination with the transfinite element method, this has proven to be very efficient. It leads to significant memory savings, which enables many more frequencies (often 3x) to be solved in parallel for distributed frequency sweeps.

Software and hardware advance in lockstep

As the above innovations show, electromagnetic simulation software is constantly advancing, ensuring it is relevant for the large-scale simulation challenges of today. Taking advantage of high-performance computing (HPC) capabilities are key to that innovation. For example, we developed a shared memory multi-threaded direct solver in 1999 that sped up the simulation significantly. The next significant solver advancement was the introduction of the first iterative solver in 2007. The iterative solver is great for complex designs with RAM limitations. In 2009, the domain decomposition method, DDM [4] enabled the HFSS solver to be used across multiple compute nodes to access both more cores for speed and more memory for capacity. The global mesh is first partitioned, then the FEM is applied to each partition. Finally, a global iteration process obtains fully coupled and accurate results.

Due to the iterative nature of DDM, it has found the most success in large antenna systems where the convergence tends to be fast and number of excitations relatively small. Since introducing DDM, we have continued to add functionality to antenna system analysis with the introduction of a surface integral equation (IE) solver in 2010, finite element-boundary integral (FEBI) solver in 2011, and a finite array DDM and hybrid FEM-IE region solver in 2012. The SBR+ (Shooting and Bouncing Ray) solver was introduced in 2016 and is very efficient at solving huge antenna systems mounted on various platforms, including automotive radars in large dynamic traffic scenes at 77 GHz. We introduced a general 3D Component Array solver in 2019, which relies on similar technology to Mesh Fusion to enable fast and accurate analysis of large antenna arrays. Typically, there are relatively few 3D components needed to define an array, making this method very efficient. All these additions can help you tackle various large scale antenna systems as well as radar cross-section (RCS) analysis. Many of these solver enhancements are also directly applicable to EMI/EMC analysis related to radiated emissions.

Fig. 2: DDM of Helicopter launching from a ship’s stern and emerging from cutplane mesh.

The solver enhancements discussed so far are related to time-harmonic simulation (frequency domain), but if you’re interested in transient phenomena such as electrostatic discharge, lightning strike, and accurate time-domain reflectometry, you need a time-domain solver, such as the discontinuous Galerkin time domain (DGTD) solver hybridized with an implicit solver that we added to HFSS in 2010 or the optimized standalone implicit solver we introduced in 2012. The implicit solver is best for electrically small designs and/or designs with high geometric complexity while the DGTD solver excels at electrically large designs with modest geometric complexity. DGTD also has a dedicated GPU implementation providing typically 2x-4x speed up compared with an 8 core CPU.

Tackle integrated chip package and board complexities

For the past decade, we have been focused on optimizing the simulation performance of HFSS for large-scale electronics systems such as IC packages and boards. Because of the complex nature of these designs, we typically rely on our direct matrix solver that has been optimized and enhanced since its introduction. For example, early enhancements included the ability to distribute the direct solver across compute nodes for enhanced performance and capacity, which removed the need for a single, expensive machine with a large RAM footprint. We also introduced an ECAD geometry-aware meshing algorithm that is specialized for layered structures typically found in packages and PCBs.

In 2015, we introduced an auto HPC framework where the solver automatically determines the number and type of distributed solver tasks to use based on a list of compute nodes and their hardware resources. Users no longer need to struggle with the complex task of optimizing these settings to get a fast, successful solution. For example, to speed up a frequency sweep, you want to increase the number of frequencies solved in parallel, but this can lead to exceeding the memory capacity of the machine. With auto HPC, the solver determines the memory requirements for a solution, then optimizes number of tasks to execute.

Fig. 3: HFSS Mesh Fusion simulation of PCB with connectors and flex cables.

As GPUs became standard, the EM simulation software industry took the opportunity to use it parallel processing capabilities. At Ansys, we added direct solver support for GPUs in 2016, which can provide a performance boost for large designs, especially. This was further optimized in 2018, yielding up to a 2x speedup compared with an 8-core CPU. The following years saw several enhancements to the distributed direct matrix solver, including improved performance when solving for large numbers of excitations. We built on that with the ability to distribute both the matrix assembly and field post processing across compute nodes, so that all critical steps in the FEM solve process can be distributed and parallelized.

After all of these innovations and more, with the introduction of HFSS Mesh Fusion, we are now in an excellent position to tackle our customers’ largest and most complex designs. HFSS Mesh Fusion is designed to tackle large systems, so you no longer need to make compromises to obtain reliable simulation results. All these advancements together with advances in HPC and Cloud computing enable a new frontier in high frequency electromagnetic simulation.


[1] Automatic Adaptive Meshing: Delivers accurate, efficient and reliable solutions to Maxwell’s Equations

Z. J. Cendes and D.N. Shenton, “Adaptive mesh refinement in the finite element computation of magnetic field”, IEEE Trans. Magn., vol. MAG-21, pp. 1811-1816, Sept. 1985

[2] Spurious Free Vector Basis Functions: Enables reliable FEM solutions of Maxwell’s Equations

M. L. Barton, Z. J. Cendes, “New vector finite elements for three-dimensional magnetic field computation”, J. Appl. Phys., vol. 61, no. 8, pp. 3919-3921, 1987

[3] Transfinite Element Method: Enables highly accurate and efficient extraction of SYZ network parameters

Z. J. Cendes and J. F. Lee, “The transfinite element method for modelling MMIC devices”, IEEE Trans. on Microwave Theory and Techniques, vol. 36, no. 12, pp. 1639-1649, December 1988

[4] Domain Decomposition Method:  Enables distributed memory computing, key for many advanced HFSS solver features

M. N. Vouvakis, Z. J. Cendes, and Jin-Fa Lee, “A FEM domain decomposition method for photonic and electromagnetic band gap structures”, IEEE Trans. Antennas Propag., vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 721-733, February 2006

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